De Blasio to revive property tax reform

Blaming delay on pandemic, mayor commits to finishing plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Tax Equity Now New York's Martha Stark (Getty, iStock, NYU)
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Tax Equity Now New York's Martha Stark (Getty, iStock, NYU)

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday he will revive his stalled property tax reform effort before leaving City Hall.

At a state Senate hearing, de Blasio committed to restarting hearings on fixing the oft-derided system and producing recommendations before the end of his term, Gotham Gazette reported.

Only two days earlier de Blasio had repeated an excuse that the pandemic “derailed” property tax reform, which he has been identifying as a priority throughout his seven years in office.

“We’ve talked about it internally, we’ve got to restart this engine. We’re absolutely committed to a final report soon,” de Blasio said in response to a senator’s question at the hearing.

Whatever the city comes up with would have to be passed by the state legislature.

Read more

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Martha Stark, policy director of Tax Equity Now New York, which sued the city in 2013 to force the city to make reforms, criticized the mayor ahead of his announcement at the budget hearing.

“Blaming his inaction on the pandemic shows the mayor’s lack of leadership, courage, and commitment to doing what he could to make NYC’s property tax less of a tale of two cities,” Stark told the paper. “He had six years to make the property tax system fairer for those who were also hardest hit by the pandemic: Black and brown people, the working class, small businesses, and renters.”

The state’s highest court dismissed the industry-backed group’s latest appeal in September 2020.

Since the 1990s the city has periodically moved to overhaul the property tax system, which TENNY and other groups argue favors single-family homes in well-off neighborhoods as well as co-ops and condos at the expense of homes in less-affluent areas and rentals.

In January 2020 the city released a preliminary report with recommendations. The report was widely criticized by the real estate industry for its tameness.

One reason it is so difficult to reform the property tax code is that any plan will raise someone’s property taxes, a prospect that few politicians relish. The system is also infamously opaque and complex, and the stakes are high: Property taxes provide a third of all the city’s revenue.

The city raised $30.7 billion in revenue this fiscal year from property taxes, although next year, with the pandemic lowering property values, that number is expected to dwindle to $29.4 billion.